20 December 2011

A crime from the cardinal's archives

“Experimentos Bacteriologicos” is the seventh episode of Los Archivos del Cardenal http://www.tvn.cl/programas/losarchivosdelcardenal/2011/ , a gripping television series that presents fictionalized accounts of some of the cases documented by the Catholic Church’s human rights department, the Vicariate of Solidarity. The series began broadcasting last month and drew some initial grumblings from conservatives—which only seemed to boost its already high ratings. The show’s writer, Josefina Fernandez, happens to be the daughter of one of the Vicariate’s lawyers and is a fan of the U.S. series Law and Order. There is, quite obviously,  an enormous stockpile of chilling real life events for the show’s scripts.

This most recent episode is based in part on the activities of Mariana Callejas and Michael Townley, a Chilean-American couple who worked for the regime’s secret police agency, the DINA. Callejas often held literary gatherings at their home, sometimes hosting her guests overnight during the curfew while the DINA used the premises not only as a makeshift lab but also to hold and interrogate political detainees.  The late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano also included this material in his novel By Night in Chile, calling Callejas  “Maria Canales” and Townley “Jimmy Thompson”.

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